COVID-19: UK coronavirus death toll rose above 32,000 to the highest in Europe

ONS figures and calculations by Reuters revealed that 32,313 deaths were registered with Covid-19 on the death certificate.

However, as the official tally reached 29,427, the government rejected international comparisons due to all-cause excess mortality as well as differences in how individual countries collect and measure their data. Dominic Raab told the daily press briefing:

I don’t think you can make the international comparisons you’re suggesting at this stage, at least I don’t think you can make them reliably.

As the UK’s official death toll from Covid-19 passed Italy’s for the first time, it is worth noting that one month ago, government sources were privately sceptical of a study by world-leading disease data analysts that projected the UK would be the worst-affected country in Europe. The study anticipated 66,000 deaths by August.

Raab, who is the foreign secretary and first secretary of state in a press conference claimed it was too early to say that the UK has the worst record for coronavirus deaths in Europe.

He was speaking after he said that the official death toll for coronavirus deaths in the UK is now 29,427. This covers all people who have died and tested positive for coronavirus. It does not include people who will have died from coronavirus without a test being carried out. 

As this chart from the respected Worldometer website shows, today’s total means the headline UK figure has overtaken Italy’s and is now the highest in Europe.

But when it was put to Raab that the UK now has the worst record in Europe, he did not accept that. He replied:

In terms of the comparison you’re suggesting ... I don’t think we’ll get a real verdict on how well countries have done until the pandemic is over and particularly until we’ve got comprehensive international data on all cause of mortality.

Raab also suggested that one reason why the UK might be looking so bad was because of the efficiency of the Office for National Statistics. He said:

We now publish data that includes all deaths in all settings and not all countries do that so I’m not sure that the international comparison works unless you reliably know that all countries are measuring in the same way.

And it also depends on how good frankly, countries are at gathering their statistics, and our own Office for National Statistics is widely acknowledged as a world leader.

I don’t think you can make the international comparisons you’re suggesting at this stage, at least I don’t think you can make them reliably.
Raab said it would not be safe to re-open all schools in England. He said:

At least to date the evidence has been that we wouldn’t be able to open up all schools without a very real risk that the R rate - the transmission rate - would rise at such a level that we would risk a second spike.

He was speaking in response to a question about whether the UK government agreed with the assessment of the Scottish government, which in a paper published today (pdf) said schools in Scotland could not fully re-open for the foreseeable future. The Scottish document said:

Full re-opening [of schools] would cause a resurgence in the virus such that hospital capacity in Scotland would be overwhelmed in less than two months ...

We are considering a phased approach to returning pupils to school, when it is safe to do so. We do not consider it likely that schools will reopen fully in the foreseeable future. Indeed, we are not yet certain that they can re-open at all in the near future.

Source: The Guardian

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